For any looking to make the transition from casual viewer to hardened fan, Fairy Tail: Collection Four – being the bulk of the third series – makes an excellent jumping-on point. The first few episodes, with everyone excited for Magnolia’s annual flower viewing party, lets watchers meet the guild members almost as if for the first time as they celebrate, scrap their way through a 24-hour road race, and partake in some light-hearted questing.
When baby of the guild Wendy Marvell heads out on her first big mission, she sets off the trend of subtle but potent character developments that take place throughout the arc. Determined to push on without help, she blossoms as a leader while steadily learning that she can rely on her companions without giving up on herself. And Natsu’s childhood flashbacks give an insight into the depth of his yearnings. His hopes and past losses give light and shade to his current timeline, making him one of the most likeable leads around.
But the guild’s fun and frivolity doesn’t last long. The king of Edolas, a world that exists on a parallel plane to Earth Land, is beset by grief as their magic rapidly wanes. In a grab for Earth Land’s free-flowing magic, he sends an Anima, which appears as a tornado-like gateway, to suck up the whole of Magnolia and spit its inhabitants out as a huge power crystal. But the dragon slayers get left behind, and with the help of their winged cats Happy and Carla, Natsu and Wendy are flown through the Anima in the hope they’ll find their friends on the other side. It’s not long before Gajeel follows suit, desperate for his own feline sidekick.
All seems solved too easily as they come across their guild HQ, but after seeing their strange behaviour, they soon realise these members are part of an alternate Fairy Tail, resident to Edolas. And here Erza Scarlet, Fairy Tail’s brusque but loving knight, is instead Erza Knightwalker, a Fairy Hunter who has already rounded up and killed over half of the Edolas guild.
As the Earth Land and Edolas guilds clash and converge, this arc becomes a parable on identity and self-doubt, as each double recognises the flaws and goodness in the other. Through facing up to their weaknesses and overcoming their differences, they discover strength that, until they quite literally found themselves, they never knew they had.